TBR News November 4, 2015

Nov 05 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. November 3, 2015: “I said recently that the loony fringe would immediately fill their pock-marked and oozing section of the Internet with back-wards idiocy about the Russian plane crash in the Sinai.

Whenever there is a major accident, believe the nuts will rush forward with enough craziness to fill the Congressional Record. 

Who will be assigned the blame?

The Bilderburgers, the Israeli Mossad, the Illuminati, ISIS, the Skull and Bones Society, George H.W. Bush, Karl Rove, Putin, the Hidden Hand, Sorcha Faal, and lastly, the Davenport, Iowa Girl Scouts.

And “Gordon Duff,” “Tyler Durden,” Wayne Madsen, Global Research and Alex Jones will be heard, screeching like turpentined cats with different Really Factual fictions.

All of these are walking advertisements for pre-frontal lobotomies and I often wonder in my spare moments if somehow their childhoods could have been prevented.”

U.S. to Send Special Operations Forces to Syria

by Nick Turse

October.30 2015

The Intercept

President Obama has authorized the deployment of a small contingent of elite U.S. troops to northern Syria as part of the campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, a senior administration official tells The Intercept.

The White House is expected to make a formal announcement later on Friday. Administration officials have been authorized to inform members of the press of the planned deployment, on condition that the news be sourced only to a “senior administration official.”

While portrayed by the administration as an intensification of the current strategy and enhancing “efforts that are already working,” the deployment of forces represents a clear escalation of the conflict for the president who has previously said, “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.”

The use of special operations forces is increasingly seen as a preferable alternative to heavy-footprint, large-scale military missions and occupations of the sort carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The contingent, comprised of fewer than 50 members of the special operations forces, will be sent to Kurdish-controlled territory “where they will help coordinate local ground forces and Coalition efforts to counter ISIL.” The deployment in Syria may represent a broader effort to increase the use of elite U.S. troops in the war on the Islamic State. According to the administration official, the president also authorized consultation “with [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Haider] Abadi and the Iraqi Government on the establishment of a Special Operations Force (SOF) task force to further enhance our ability to target ISIL leaders and networks.”

The special operations deployment to Syria comes at a time of expanding use of America’s most elite forces all around the world. In the fiscal year that just ended, U.S. special operations forces — Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among others — deployed to a record-shattering 147 countries, according to Special Operations Command (SOCOM) spokesperson Ken McGraw. That number translated into a SOF presence in 75 percent of the nations on the planet and a jump of 145 percent since the waning days of the Bush administration. On any day of the year, America’s most elite troops can be found in 70 to 90 countries.

Previously, U.S. special operations efforts in Syria have been brief, targeted missions, such as a night raid in May in which members of the Army’s Delta Force killed an Islamic State commander known as Abu Sayyaf.

In July, SOCOM Commander Gen. Joseph Votel told the Aspen Security Forum that his troops were not “doing anything on the ground in Syria.” Despite that claim, special operations forces had carried out the Abu Sayyaf night raid there a couple of months before and the Washington Post recently revealed that they are involved in a secret campaign of drone strikes in that country.

SOCOM did not respond to a request for clarification if Syria was counted among the 147 countries that saw SOF missions in 2015.

In addition to the new special operations deployment, President Obama also authorized enhancing assistance to neighboring Jordan and Lebanon and deploying A-10 and F-15 attack aircraft to Incirlik air base in Turkey to combat Islamic State forces.

The administration is taking pains, however, to downplay the ultimate significance of the enhanced military mission. “ISIL is a determined enemy,” the senior official said in an email. “And we will not defeat ISIL by military means alone.”Government on the establishment of a Special Operations Force (SOF) task force to further enhance our ability to target ISIL leaders and networks.”

The special operations deployment to Syria comes at a time of expanding use of America’s most elite forces all around the world. In the fiscal year that just ended, U.S. special operations forces — Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among others — deployed to a record-shattering 147 countries, according to Special Operations Command (SOCOM) spokesperson Ken McGraw. That number translated into a SOF presence in 75 percent of the nations on the planet and a jump of 145 percent since the waning days of the Bush administration. On any day of the year, America’s most elite troops can be found in 70 to 90 countries.

Previously, U.S. special operations efforts in Syria have been brief, targeted missions, such as a night raid in May in which members of the Army’s Delta Force killed an Islamic State commander known as Abu Sayyaf.

In July, SOCOM Commander Gen. Joseph Votel told the Aspen Security Forum that his troops were not “doing anything on the ground in Syria.” Despite that claim, special operations forces had carried out the Abu Sayyaf night raid there a couple of months before and the Washington Post recently revealed that they are involved in a secret campaign of drone strikes in that country.

SOCOM did not respond to a request for clarification if Syria was counted among the 147 countries that saw SOF missions in 2015.

In addition to the new special operations deployment, President Obama also authorized enhancing assistance to neighboring Jordan and Lebanon and deploying A-10 and F-15 attack aircraft to Incirlik air base in Turkey to combat Islamic State forces.

The administration is taking pains, however, to downplay the ultimate significance of the enhanced military mission. “ISIL is a determined enemy,” the senior official said in an email. “And we will not defeat ISIL by military means alone.”

US Special Forces deployed as ‘human shields’ to salvage terror assets in Syria

November 1, 2015

by Finian Cunningham


Obama’s decision to send Special Forces into Syria is being widely viewed as a US military escalation in the country. The troop dispatch also signals that the US trying to forestall Russian successes in wiping out Washington’s regime-change assets in Syria.

In short, the US Special Forces are being used as “human shields” to curb Russian air strikes against anti-government mercenaries, many of whom are instrumental in Washington’s regime-change objective in Syria.

First of all, we need to view a host of developments, including the hastily convened “peace talks” in Vienna, as a response by the US and its allies to the game-changing military intervention by Russia. That intervention, beginning on September 30, has not only dealt massive blows to militants, it has completely changed the balance of forces to give the Assad government the upper hand in the war against foreign-backed extremists. That, in turn, has sent the US-led powers trying to topple Damascus into disarray.

Recall the scattered reactions from Washington and its allies, including Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. At first, Washington tried to rubbish Vladimir Putin’s order to aid his Syrian ally with airstrikes as “doomed to fail”.

Then there were overblown, unverified, claims of civilian casualties from Russian strikes, plus there were American claims that Russian cruise missiles had gone wildly astray, hitting Iran. There was also much angst over Russia striking “moderate rebels” instead of the Islamic State terror network. All such accusations, encouraged with Western media amplification, were designed to undermine Russia’s military operation.

Then there were threats from Saudi Arabia and Qatar that they would launch direct military action in Syria to “protect” the populace from the joint firepower of Assad and Putin. That idea was quickly shelved (one wonders by whom?).

Another seeming knee-jerk response came from Turkey and rightwing politicians and pundits in the US which revived talks about the creation of “safe havens” in northern Syria, ostensibly to protect civilian refugees, but also tacitly and more importantly, to give cover to “rebel” groups from Russian air strikes and Syrian government ground troops.

None of these reactions have gained credibility despite Western media hype. On the contrary, it soon became clear that Russia’s military intervention in Syria was a masterstroke by Putin, wiping out large swathes of the anti-government mercenaries, stabilizing the Assad government, and winning much popular support both within Syria and across the Middle East, and indeed around the world.

Last week, America’s top military official, General Joseph F Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee that Russia’s air support had changed everything. “The balance of forces right now are in Assad’s advantage,” he said.

This is the context in which to interpret the latest, surprise move by Obama to send Special Forces into Syria. It is more about inhibiting Russian success in destroying the sundry anti-regime forces on the ground than about either “helping the fight against Islamic State” as claimed, or about misgivings of a large-scale American invasion.

The troop contingent that Obama has ordered amounts to 50 Special Forces personnel. That is hardly going to be a decisive blow to Islamic State militants, even if we believe the official rationale for their deployment.

The White House, in its announcement, was at pains to emphasize that the troops would not be in a combat role and would only be acting to “advise and train” Kurdish fighters and others belonging to the little-known Syrian Arab Coalition.

But here is perhaps the significant part of the story. “The move could potentially put the American troops in the cross hairs of Russia,” reports the New York Times. Significantly, too, the Pentagon will not be informing the Russian military of the exact whereabouts of its ground personnel.

That suggests that the real purpose for Obama sending in the troops is to restrict Russian offensive operations by introducing the risk of bombing American forces. In effect, the US Special Forces are being used as human shields to protect American regime-change assets on the ground.

These assets include an array of jihadist mercenary brigades, which the US and its allies have invested billions of dollars in for the objective of regime change in Syria. The misnomer of “moderate rebels” belies abundant evidence that the mercenaries include Al Qaeda-linked terror groups, including Islamic State. CIA supplies of anti-tank TOW missiles as well as Toyota jeeps are just a glimpse of the foreign covert-sponsorship.

Russia’s devastating air campaign over the past month – over 1,600 targets destroyed according to Moscow – has no doubt caused apoplexy in Washington, London, Paris, Ankara, Riyadh and Doha. An urgent stop to their “losses” had to be invoked. But the foreign sponsors can’t say it openly otherwise that gives the game away about their criminal involvement in Syria’s war.

This perspective most likely explains the hastily convened “peace conference” in Vienna. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s apparent concern to “stop the bloodshed” does not seem credible as the primary motive. Why the concern now after nearly five years of bloodshed?

It is not about a “quest for peace” as the BBC reported. The move is more credibly about Washington and its allies maneuvering to give their regime-change assets in Syria a reprieve from Russia’s firepower. One of the main points agreed in Vienna this weekend is the implementation of a “nation-wide ceasefire”.

Another indicator of what is really going on are reports this week of the large-scale airlifting of jihadist mercenary groups out of Syria. According to senior Syrian army intelligence, up to 500 mercenaries were flown to Yemen onboard Turkish, Qatari and Emirati planes. The fighters were brought to Yemen’s southern city of Aden from where they were dispatched to battle zones inside Yemen by the American-coordinated Saudi coalition. The US-Saudi coalition is waging war in Yemen to reinstall the regime of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ousted by Houthi rebels earlier this year.

Aden is under the military control of Saudi and Emirati forces and Yemen’s airspace has been closed off by the coalition coordinated by US and British military planners based in Saudi capital Riyadh. It is inconceivable that plane loads of jihadists could be flown into southern Yemen without the knowledge of Washington.

So what we are seeing here is a concerted effort by Washington and its allies to stem their covert military losses in Syria. Sending in American Special Forces – a seemingly dramatic U-turn by Obama to put boots on the ground in Syria – is just one part of a wider effort to forestall Russian success in stabilizing Syria. These US forces are not about a “deepening of American involvement in a war [Obama] has tried to avoid”, as the New York Times would have us believe. They are being sent in to act as human shields against Russian airstrikes.

The putative ceasefire under a so-called peace process is another element of the US-led salvage operation. The real agenda is about giving Western, Turk and Arab-sponsored jihadists a space to regroup, and if needs be flown out of the Syrian theatre to resume their imperialist function in Yemen and, no doubt, elsewhere when required.

Russia says no country can use military force in Syria without government approval

October 30, 2015


Moscow-Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday that no country could use military force in Syria without first securing the agreement of the Syrian government, the TASS news agency reported.

TASS said Ryabkov was responding to a question about the prospect of the United States launching a ground operation in Syria.

“The question of using military force in any form without the agreement of Damascus is for us unacceptable,” it quoted him as saying.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Runaway Surveillance Blimp Deflates Raytheon’s Hopes to Sell More

October 28, 2015

by Dan Froomkin, Lee Fang

The Intercept

In what may be the most bizarre and public crash of a multi-billion dollar Pentagon boondoggle ever, a surveillance blimp flying over an Army base in Maryland broke loose Wednesday afternoon, its 6,000-foot long tether wreaking havoc on the countryside before it finally came down in pieces in Pennsylvania.

The giant airship — 80 yards long and about the size of three Goodyear blimps — was one of a pair that represented the last gasp of an 18-year, $2.7 billion-dollar program called JLENS or “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.”

There were once supposed to be 36 of them, their high-resolution 360-degree radar coverage up to 340 miles in any direction protecting the nation from cruise missiles.

But costs inflated, doubts about their utility mounted, and the program was scaled back and almost killed.

Blimps, it turns out, have had mixed success in purely military terms. When equipped with cameras, they are highly effective at conducting surveillance – but the Army promised there were no cameras on the JLENS blimps.

What blimps are best at is having a psychological effect: making people feel like they’re being watched. Filmmaker Kirsten Johnson’s short documentary The Above touches on that phenomenon. The film, made for The Intercept‘s Field of Vision project, mostly shows a U.S. military surveillance balloon floating on a tether high above Kabul, Afghanistan. But it ends with shots of the JLENS.

Finally, the Army agreed to launch two of them, for a three-year test. They were hovering at a height of 10,000 feet just off Interstate 95, about 45 miles northeast of Washington, D.C., and about 20 miles from Baltimore. In theory, they could track moving objects from North Carolina to Boston, or an area the size of Texas. With only two in the air, they effectively cost about $1.4 billion each — a lot, even by advanced weapons standards.

While the blimps became perhaps the Pentagon’s most visible white elephants, their manufacturer, the Raytheon Co., still hoped to make some more money off them,

The huge defense contractor’s endgame, at least until Wednesday, seemed to be trying to sell them abroad.

In a video interview with Shephard Media just two weeks ago, Douglas Burgess, director of persistent surveillance programs at Raytheon, discussed the JLENS program. “There’s a lot of interest internationally, particularly now that we’re up and flying,” he said. “I can’t talk specifics about who, but there is certainly a lot of interest internationally.”

As for his next step? “For us, it’s to get the A+, I call it, on the scorecard from NORAD about its operational utility here on the East Coast. So that’s really our near-term focus.”

But that A+ has now most likely turned into something closer to an F.

Then again, JLENS has cheated death before. After a JLENS blimp was destroyed in a storm in September of 2010, Army officials raised doubts about the program, attempting to scale it back. That set in motion an aggressive effort by Raytheon to win over support from Capitol Hill and the Pentagon.

Raytheon retained the lobbying services of former Sens. John Breaux, D-La., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., through the firm now known as Squire Patton Boggs, to press lawmakers on the urgency of the program. TCOM, a subcontractor for the project, also brought on lobbyists to boost the blimp, including American Defense International, a D.C. consulting firm.

The company’s officials argued that the JLENS could be used “not just in combat, but also American cities and towns” as a surveillance tool for tracking small planes and other domestic threats, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times.

Raytheon, which sponsors regular advertisements in the Beltway Metro system and is a prominent sponsor of think tanks across the city, launched a series of promotional videos. Make sure you have the sound up for this one:

The savior of the JLENS program, according to the Times, was Marine Corps Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cartwright argued within the ranks of the military that the blimp had broad use, despite claims by many that the blimps would not be much use against the type of crude weapons, such as IEDs, used against troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cartwright, after securing support for the blimp, joined Raytheon’s board, a position that has paid him more than $828,000 in cash and stock.

Among the promotional material Raytheon prepared for JLENS was a FAQ. One of the questions was “Can the tether break?

The Raytheon answer: “The chance of that happening is very small because the tether is made of Vectran and has withstood storms in excess of 100 knots. However, in the unlikely event it does happen, there are a number of procedures and systems in place which are designed to bring the aerostat down in a safe manner.”

Are any foods safe to eat anymore? Here’s the truth

October 30, 2015

by David Robson


Food was once seen as a source of sustenance and pleasure. Today, the dinner table can instead begin to feel like a minefield. Is the bacon on your plate culinary asbestos, and will the wheat in your toast give you “grain brain”? Even the bubbles of gas in your fizzy drinks have been considered a hazard.

Worse still, the advice changes continually.  As TV-cook Nigella Lawson recently put it: “You can guarantee that what people think will be good for you this year, they won’t next year.”

Many of our favourite foods are not the ticking time bomb we have been led to believe this may be somewhat inevitable: evidence-based health advice should be constantly updated as new studies explore the nuances of what we eat and the effects the meals have on our bodies. But when the media (and ill-informed health gurus) exaggerate the results of a study without providing the context, it can lead to unnecessary fears that may, ironically, push you towards less healthy choices.

We’ve tried to cut through the confusion by weighing up all the available evidence to date. You may be pleased to learn that many of your favourite foods are not the ticking time bomb you have been led to believe.

The food: Bacon

The fear: Processed meats are as dangerous as cigarettes.

The facts: While the World Health Organisation has announced overwhelming evidence that bacon (and other kinds of processed meat) can contribute to colorectal cancer, the real dangers are not quite as worrying as the subsequent headlines would have us believe.

As Cancer Research UK points out in an astute blog, colorectal cancer is itself relatively rare. If you eat barely any meat, there is a 5.6% risk of developing the disease over your lifetime; even if you pig out on bacon and ham every day, it only rises to about 6.6%. In other words, for every 100 people who stop eating bacon, only one will have avoided cancer. To put that in perspective, consider the figures for tobacco: for every 100 smokers who give up, 10-15 lives may be saved. The two are hardly comparable.

Even so, you may want to reconsider a 20-rashers-a-day habit. The UK government advises that an average of 70g a day is still healthy – about three rashers, or two sausages.

In a nutshell? The odd English breakfast may not do you as much good as a bowl of granola – but nor is it gastronomic asbestos.

The food: Coffee

The fear: Our caffeine addiction will drive us to a heart attack.

The facts: There is very little evidence that a cup of Joe will send you to an early grave; in fact, the opposite may be true. In 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on the health of 400,000 Americans over the course of 13 years. The scientists found that people who drank between three and six cups a day were around 10% less likely to die during the 13-year period, with lower rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and infections. Considering a string of studies examining the health of more than a million individuals, a review in 2014 painted a similar picture: people who drank four cups a day were around 16% less likely to die at any one time.

Note that these were only observational studies. Although they tried to account for other factors, there’s no way of knowing if the coffee itself was protecting the heart, or if there’s some other, hidden, explanation. Perhaps healthier people are just more likely to be drawn to coffee. But as “addictions” go, it’s pretty harmless.

In a nutshell? It’s probably not the elixir of life that some claim, but based on this evidence, you can at least savour that morning espresso with impunity.

The food: Wheat

The fear:  So-called “grain brain” could contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

The facts: First things first: a very small number of people – around 1% of the population – do have a genuine gluten allergy known as celiac disease, that can damage their intestines and lead to malnutrition. Others may not suffer from celiac disease, but they may instead be “sensitive” to wheat; although they don’t suffer symptoms if they only eat a small amount, they may experience some discomfort if they eat too much bread.

Explanations for this “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” are controversial: rather than the gluten in wheat specifically, it may instead be caused by a range of sugars and proteins that are also found in many other foods, including fruit and onions. If so, simply cutting wheat would not relieve the symptoms.

Then there are the people going gluten-free even without experiencing definite symptoms at all, because wheat itself is seen as being toxic. As Peter Green at Columbia University commented recently: “People who promote an anti-grain or anti-gluten agenda sometimes cite our work in celiac disease, drawing far-ranging conclusions that extend well beyond evidence-based medicine.”  One popular claim, for instance, is that wheat-based foods trigger inflammation throughout the body, which could contribute to “brain fog” and increase the risk of serious conditions like Alzheimer’s. But while diets heavy in carbohydrates and sugars may, over time, lead to neural damage, whole wheat is still better than other energy sources, such as potatoes, since it releases its sugars more slowly.

In a nutshell? Humans have been eating wheat for at least 10,000 years – and unless you have been tested for an allergy, there seems little reason to stop until we have far more evidence.

The food: Butter, cheese and full-fat milk

The fear: Dairy products will clog up your arteries and contribute to heart disease.

The facts: For decades, the message has been simple: “saturated” fats from cheese, butter, and full-fat milk will raise the cholesterol in your blood and put you in danger of a heart attack. For this reason, many health organisations had encouraged us to lubricate our diets with margarine and vegetable oils, replacing the saturated fats with “poly-unsaturates” typically found in the (famously healthy) Mediterranean diet.

Yet over the last few years, we’ve seen a stream and then a torrent of deeply puzzling findings that contradict the accepted wisdom. Taking all the evidence into account, one major review in the Annals of Internal Medicine recently concluded that “high levels of saturated fat intake had no effect on coronary disease”. Again, these were only observational studies, but one team decided to put it to a test with a carefully planned intervention, feeding their participants 27%-fat Gouda cheese every day for eight weeks. At the end of the trial, they had lower cholesterol than controls asked to stomach a zero-fat alternative.

The oddest finding? Despite the fact that full-fat milk and butter are packed with calories, people eating full-fat dairy were no more likely to be obese than those drinking semi-skimmed milk; 12 separate studies have in fact found them to be leaner. It’s possible that the fat itself could help regulate the metabolism, meaning that you burn off energy more efficiently; or it could be that full-fat dairy keeps our hunger locked away for longer, making us less likely to fill up with unhealthy snacks later on.

In a nutshell? We still don’t understand why, but “full-fat” may be the new “skinny”.

The food: Pasteurised milk

The fear: Pasteurisation could contribute to eczema, asthma and other immune disorders.

The facts:  It’s not just full-fat milk that has come under fire. A common assumption is that the more “natural” a food is, the healthier it must be, and this has led some to shun pasteurised milk. Proponents claim that pasteurisation damages many of the useful nutrients in milk, including proteins that may protect us from allergies. The process of pasteurisation, they believe, also kills “friendly” microbes in the milk that could add to the microbiome in our gut, aiding digestion, strengthening the immune system and even protecting against cancer.

Many doctors, however, believe this is premature. The mild heating involved in pasteurisation should leave almost all the nutrients intact, and it seems unlikely that the friendly bacteria in raw milk will bring many benefits: its colonies would need to be thousands of times bigger for enough of the bacteria to survive digestion and make their way to the intestine. And although there is some tentative evidence that people who drank raw milk as children tend to have fewer allergies, it’s hard to be sure this was caused by the milk itself, and not just the fact that many of these children mostly grew up on farms. Living among so many animals, their body may have been trained to deal with allergens at a young age, making them less likely to suffer as adults. What’s more, drinking raw milk could be potentially dangerous: we pasteurise the drink for good reason, to kill microbes that could cause serious disease, like tuberculosis, Salmonella and E coli.

In a nutshell? Before you risk a nasty infection, you might want to wait for the evidence to match the extravagant claims.

The food: Eggs

The fear: A heart-attack in a shell.

The facts: Like full-fat milk, eggs were once thought to cake our arteries in cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. There may be some truth in these claims, but provided you are otherwise healthy, eating up to seven eggs a week seems to come with no ill-consequences.

In a nutshell? Besides the risk of flatulence and constipation, eggs are a safe and valuable source of protein.

The food: “Diet” soft drinks

The fear: Artificial sweeteners can contribute to cancer risk.

The facts: We already know that too much sugar leads to obesity, diabetes and heart disease – but what about the artificial sweeteners we add to “diet” drinks to try to lessen the impact? One common fear is that they promote the growth of tumours. But as Claudia Hammond recently explained on BBC Future, the risks may have been exaggerated; a vast study conducted by the US National Cancer Institute found no increase in the risk of brain cancer, leukaemia or lymphoma in people consuming aspartame, the most common sweeteners, and the same seems to be true for other sugar alternatives. There is, however, a chance that they might contribute to glucose intolerance, and type 2 diabetes – though it has yet to be proven. (Incidentally, Hammond has also punctured the idea that the bubbles in soft drinks are themselves a hazard, debunking claims that it could harm your stomach and weaken your bones.)

In a nutshell? Artificial sweeteners may be the lesser of two evils – they may carry some risks, but are still healthier than the full-sugar alternatives.

America’s Civilian Killings Are No Accident

October 30, 2015

by Peter Van Buren,


America and its allies make modern war in a way that assures “mistakes” destroy hospitals, and civilian lives are taken by drones. These horrors are all too often strategic decisions, or the result of the profligate use of needlessly destructive weapons. They are typically far from accidents.

The destruction of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, including the deaths of physicians from Doctors Without Borders, has become the celebrity example of America’s conduct of war. It is the one that made the news, much like a single child dead on the beach stood in for five years of unabated refugee flows out of the Middle East. But Kunduz is more important than just a dramatic news story, in that it stands as a clear example of a sordid policy.

Target Kunduz

After a series of cascading explanations, the United States settled on blaming the Afghan military for demanding a strike on the building which was the hospital. There is truth in that – the request likely did initiate with the Afghans – but it ignores the larger story of how “accidents” really happen.

The strike was conducted by an American AC-130, a flying gunship. A retired Air Force Special Operations officer explained to me that the AC-130 is considered a “first hit” weapon; its ordnance hits where it is designated to hit on the first try. The targeted hospital was marked by a U.S. Special Forces operator alongside the Afghans, using a laser. The AC-130 fired on the hospital for over one hour, in 15-minute paced barrages.

How could the US have known the target was a hospital? Easily. Kunduz had been controlled by the Afghans alongside their embedded Americans for some time. It was a mature battlefield, with landmarks such as the hospital well-known on the ground. In addition, NGOs employ organizations such as The International NGO Safety and Security Association (INSSA) specifically to coordinate with armed forces working around their sites, to include providing precise GPS coordinates to avoid “accidental” targeting. Doctors Without Borders also directly provides combatants their locations; in Kunduz, as recently as September 29.

The latter details are especially important in evaluating strikes against hospitals and other civilian targets. Unlike in WWII when thousands of planes flew over cities hoping to hit a target only as precisely defined as “Tokyo,” modern ordnance is delivered by computer, using laser designation, satellite coordination, GPs systems and classified mapping tools.

America blew up exactly what it aimed at in Kunduz.

America’s Other HospitalsKunduz was not America’s first hospital. The US bombed a maternity hospital in Baghdad in 2003, a hospital in Rutbah, and stormed a hospital in Nasiriya. Shells hit the large Al Yarmuk Hospital in Baghdad. A hospital in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, was bombed in the 1990s. In Hanoi, the United States struck the Bach Mai hospital – twice – during the 1972 “Christmas Bombing.” The United States also destroyed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999, citing inaccurate maps as the cause.

There are always investigations following such incidents, though in the history of modern American warfare none have ever been deemed such strikes as having been planned. Hospitals make attractive targets. Destroying them results in fighters dying of their wounds, and increases the burden on healthy soldiers, pulling them from the battlefield to care for their own wounded. In military terms that is known as a “soft kill.” Accidents emerge in war, but so do patterns.

Civilian Deaths and the Drone War

The killing of civilians as a result of American war is not limited to attacks on hospitals. The global drone war continues to take innocent lives, in what has come to be known without shame or irony as collateral damage.

Even conservative estimates of the number of civilians killed by drone attacks targeted on others are suspect, given the secrecy under which the US drone program operates. The analytically conservative Council on Foreign Relations tally assesses that 500 drone strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan have killed 3,674 civilians as of 2014. The count measures kills outside of Iraq and Afghanistan specifically because only those places are considered active war zones per se by the United States (known US attacks inside Syria had not yet begun.)

In Yemen, in just one example, American drone strikes aimed at 17 named men actually killed 273 people, at least seven of them children, including the American Citizen son of alleged al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki.

But the killing of civilians as a result of American war is not limited to attacks on hospitals, or by drone.

Tools of Destruction

There is a commonality to the growing death count created by America and its allies: the inevitable civilian deaths caused by the profligate use of horrifically destructive weapons, especially inside urban areas.

Civilian casualties overall in America’s 2003-2011 Iraq War were anywhere from 140,000 dead to upwards of 500,000, many by artillery, cluster munitions, and depleted uranium munitions, indiscriminate weapons unique to American forces.

For its drone strikes, the US uses Hellfire missiles, armed with warheads originally designed to burn through the heaviest tank armor. Aiming them at a person inevitably will kill others nearby; the US claimed al-Awlaki’s son was killed inside a car, seated next to the actual target. Such deaths are also closely tied to America’s policy of “signature drone strikes,” where a missile is aimed at a “profile:” a suspect cell phone, a car matching some description, a suspicious gathering outside a home.

America’s Allies

America’s allies, equipped with American weapons, follow a similar pattern in their making of war.

The US throughout the Middle and Near East, the Saudis in Yemen and Israel in Gaza, employ cluster munitions in urban areas. Such munitions are known as “area denial weapons,” which cause massive, indiscriminate destruction over wide swaths of territory. Documented inside Yemen have been American-made CBU-52 cluster bombs, each loaded with 220 “anti-material” bomblets. Imagine the use of such weapons inside central London, or on a Manhattan street.

Though not confined to cluster munitions alone, the deployment of U.S.-made weapons by the Saudis in Yemen has only added to the carnage. Almost 4,000 people have been killed, with 19,000 injured and more than a million displaced from their homes.

In Gaza in 2009, the Israelis used cluster munitions, white phosphorus (a burning agent also used by the US in Iraq), as well as standard artillery, rockets and airstrikes, all against dense urban areas. The UN estimates over 1,400 civilians, of whom 495 were children, were killed in the attacks. The Israelis also destroyed a hospital in Gaza, attacked two others, and shelled UN-run schools in 2014.

The US, Israel and Saudi Arabia are among the countries that have refused to sign The Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty banning the use of such weapons.

The Cost of Modern War

Accountability remains in the hands of those with the weapons. America and Israel conduct self-investigations, and stymie independent ones, to clear their military of blame (the Saudi do not even appear to bother.) At the UN, the United States blocks action critical of Israel. In Yemen, the US claims it cannot control how the Saudis choose to employ American weapons, and has stated the Saudi actions only “border on” violations of international law. NATO and the EU are deathly silent on the substantive issues, even in places where their own forces are on the ground.

It is clear that modern war as conducted by the United States and its allies in the Middle East has as a known outcome massive civilian casualties. The sites purposefully targeted can be civilian when needed, in violation of all known standards of international law. The steady flow of “accidents” and collateral kills are fully-expected, inevitable and foreseeable consequences of the choice of weapons used.

The civilian deaths are not accidental, but policy. Kunduz was no accident. It was simply another example.

The Revolt Against ‘Democracy’: From the US to Ukraine

October 30, 2015

by Justin Raimondo


It’s election time in the US, and people are talking about subjects generally ignored in the woof and warp of everyday life. The role of government, trade policy, immigration, foreign policy – but none of these subjects dominated the stage in the latest installment of the seemingly endless GOP debates. Instead, the assembled candidates were pilloried by the moderators with a series of condescending and openly hostile “questions.” As Ted Cruz put it: “Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?”

Cruz received a roar of approval from the crowd, which by that time was sick unto death of the CNBC panel’s arrogant hectoring – and that’s really the story of this election in a nutshell: what we’re witnessing is a populist rebellion against the political class, of which the media is an essential part.

Insulated from the public, smugly ensconced in their own certitude, the “mainstream” media has routinely set the narrative of every election in modern times – but not anymore. Their reign effectively ended with the rise of the Internet and the explosion of independent outlets, like the Drudge Report – and, yes, Antiwar.com – which have left them in the dust.

Yet the “legacy media” has stubbornly clung to their privileged position, mostly by their dominance of television – their last redoubt. But the time has passed when they could set the agenda, as Fox News and now CNBC have discovered. The rise of the GOP outsiders – Trump and Carson, who together have nearly half of the GOP electorate’s support in the polls – is in large part a revolt against the media, as well as the Republican Establishment. As in the last days of the old Soviet Union, people are tired of being lied to and told what to think. As many Russians said of the two principal Soviet mouthpieces, Pravda and Izvestia – in English, “the truth” and “the news” – “v Pravde net izvestiy, v Izvestiyakh net pravdy” (“In the Truth there is no news, and in the News there is no truth”). Today the same goes for NBC and Fox News.

I seem to recall a time when the news media was respected, and seen as the people’s shield against government abuse and corruption. Those days are long gone, as the revolving door between official Washington and the press corps keeps swinging and the two sectors meet and merge socially and ideologically.

The Iraq war was the final nail in the legacy media’s coffin, as the New York Times and other major outlets played a key role in ginning up that disaster, acting as a transmission belt for the Bush administration’s lies about Saddam’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction. When the public becomes convinced that the “news” is simply propaganda, then trust goes out the window and all bets are off.

The revolt against the Establishment is manifested in the rise of Donald Trump, whose political demise has been gleefully predicted by pundits and journalists with clocklike regularity – even as his poll numbers soar to new heights. And the mandarins of Establishment wisdom are angry about it: GOP consultant Rick Wilson, a longtime  sycophant of the “donor class,” has called on Republican party bigwigs to “put a bullet in Trump,” and it’s not at all clear to me he meant this only figuratively. Trump, for his part, has called for Secret Service protection, and has so far not gotten it.

Yes, the political class can get quite nasty when their edicts are defied and their preferred narratives are ignored. In this country, they couldn’t quite get away with simply canceling the election, although I wouldn’t put it past them to try. We still retain the old republican forms, even if they are largely emptied of content. However, in the outer reaches of the Empire, far from the Imperial Metropolis, the rules are easily bent.

Take Ukraine, our latest acquisition, where an election for local offices was recently held. After a successful campaign to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Viktor Yanukovich, and the installation of a “pro-Western” coalition of technocrats and outright fascists, the new regime found itself in the midst of a civil war: the eastern provinces, who had voted for Yanukovich, weren’t about to take the coup d’etat lying down. They rose up, declared their independence, and successfully fought off a vicious assault by the Ukrainian army, enduring attacks on civilian centers which took many thousands of lives and fighting the Kiev regime to a standstill.

Under pressure from the European Union, and especially the Germans, the gang in Kiev granted the easterners limited autonomy and agreed to hold elections – but as election day approached, and the anti-Kiev Opposition Bloc seemed sure to win in the hotly contested cities of Mariupol and Krasnoarmeysk, they simply canceled the vote.

The essential reality of Western governments is normally hidden behind the gauzy veil of “democracy,” only to reveal its true face in times of crisis: that’s when its monstrous visage – pitted and pockmarked like the portrait of Dorian Gray by its own inherent evil – is unmasked in all its ugliness. Mariupol, deep in the Donbass region, has never been part of Ukraine: it is Russian through and through, and it has suffered in this vicious civil war perhaps more than most. Its long suffering people want nothing to do with the gang in Kiev, which has been bombarding their city for the past year, and they were ready to vote with their hearts – but their tormentors couldn’t permit that.

Likewise in Krasnoarmeysk, where the Ukrainian “National Guard” – actually, members of the neo-Nazi “Right Sector” group – murdered at least two people when the populace tried to vote in the “secessionist” referendum. That was one election the politicians in Kiev and their Western masters were determined to stop any at cost. And so the local elections, mandated by the Minsk agreement and demanded by the Europeans, were canceled there, too – because the results would have represented a massive repudiation of President Petro Poroshenko and the entire US-EU regime change operation that has torn the country asunder.

Every government on earth must seek some form of legitimacy, no matter how staged, because even the worst dictatorship depends to a large extent on the voluntary cooperation of the populace. The people must consent to be ruled, and when that consent is withdrawn it’s curtains for the ruling class. The Soviets discovered this in the Great Revolution of 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down without a shot being fired: and when the rebellion spread to the rest of the Warsaw Pact and into the Soviet Union itself, the Leninist project was no more. The whole mighty edifice simply evaporated with a bare minimum of violence in a relatively short period of time.

The official reaction in the West was, initially, disbelief, morphing into genuine horror: President George H. W. Bush, you’ll recall, urged Ukrainians not to overthrow their Soviet masters too hastily, and tried to “stabilize” the situation, which seemed rather odd at the time. After all, hadn’t Washington waged a “cold war” against the Soviets, declaring them to be an “evil empire” that represented a deadly threat to Peace, Democracy, and the American Way? Hadn’t we armed ourselves with enough nuclear weaponry to destroy the world a hundred times over in “defense” against these mortal enemies of all that is good and right?

Well, yes, but when it came right down to it – when the captive nations of the “evil empire” rose up and the Soviet colossus began to crumble with astonishing rapidity – the mandarins of Washington were horrified. That’s because the example of a mighty empire being swept away without even a single military skirmish was something that rightly sent a shudder of fear coursing through their own veins. If it could happen to the Soviets then it could just as easily happen to them – and that is a lesson they didn’t want their own captive peoples to learn.

Here in the Imperial Metropolis, the captive peoples are growing restless, just as they are on the frontiers of the Empire. Everywhere the spirit of rebellion against arbitrary authority is gaining strength and picking up momentum. This is what frightens our political class, which, up until recently, has felt safe in its Washington and New York redoubts. With the two “major” parties under their thumb, and the media singing like a Greek chorus echoing their manufactured narratives, a very small group of plutocrats, political operatives, and behind-the-scenes fixers have manipulated the apparatus of “democracy” to their advantage, maintaining their monopoly on the reins of power. Yet that monopoly is now being effectively challenged, not only here but all over the world.

As Bette Davis once put it: Fasten your seat belts – we’re in for a bumpy ride! And it really is about time, isn’t it?

Young Britons face worst economic prospects in generations, human rights study finds

October 30, 2015


Young people in the UK are at risk of becoming a lost generation, a new report has found, with economic prospects for Britons under the age of 34 at their lowest level for several generations.

The report, published on Friday by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), concluded the average income of a young person had fallen dramatically in the past five years, and more barriers were preventing them from gaining economic independence.

Titled ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ the report found that young people are having a tougher time than their older peers recovering from the 2008 global financial crisis.

Unemployment for 16- to 24-year-olds stood at 14.8 percent for the three months to August 2015, the report found. The rate is higher than the 13.8 percent recorded before February 2008, immanently before the recession hit.

EHRC commissioner Laura Carstensen said young people had to cope with a particularly difficult set of circumstances.

Theirs are the shoulders on which the country will rely to provide for a rapidly ageing population, yet they have the worst economic prospects for several generations,” she said.

Measures brought in by the Conservative government have also neglected young people. Chancellor George Osborne announced a “national living wage” in July, but it will only be available to workers aged 25 and over.

Those between ages 21 and 24 will still be forced to work on the current minimum wage of £6.70 (US$10.30) per hour.

The report also examined the effects of poverty on different ethnic minority groups. It found white British boys are worst affected.

In terms of education, children from Chinese and Indian backgrounds tended to perform better than other pupils, the report discovered.

It further concluded opportunities in education and employment had improved for people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage, while people from African and Caribbean descent had seen some of the biggest falls in incomeThe EHRC further found that attitudes toward religious diversity had become less accepting, with a marked increase the number of Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attacks.

In a statement, Trade Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the government needs to tackle low-pay, housing costs and youth employment.

This report should be wake-up call to ministers. Hiking up university and college fees and excluding young people from the new higher minimum wage rate is not the way to build a fair and prosperous Britain. It is the blueprint for a lost generation,” she said.

Without better employment and training opportunities many young people will continue to be shut out of the recovery.”

Beijing’s covert radio network airs China-friendly news across Washington, and the world

November. 2, 2015

by Koh Gui Qing and John Shiffman


BEIJING/WASHINGTON – In August, foreign ministers from 10 nations blasted China for building artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea. As media around the world covered the diplomatic clash, a radio station that serves the most powerful city in America had a distinctive take on the news.

Located outside Washington, D.C., WCRW radio made no mention of China’s provocative island project. Instead, an analyst explained that tensions in the region were due to unnamed “external forces” trying “to insert themselves into this part of the world using false claims.”

Behind WCRW’s coverage is a fact that’s never broadcast: The Chinese government controls much of what airs on the station, which can be heard on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

WCRW is just one of a growing number of stations across the world through which Beijing is broadcasting China-friendly news and programming.

A Reuters investigation spanning four continents has identified at least 33 radio stations in 14 countries that are part of a global radio web structured in a way that obscures its majority shareholder: state-run China Radio International, or CRI.

Many of these stations primarily broadcast content created or supplied by CRI or by media companies it controls in the United States, Australia and Europe. Three Chinese expatriate businessmen, who are CRI’s local partners, run the companies and in some cases own a stake in the stations. The network reaches from Finland to Nepal to Australia, and from Philadelphia to San Francisco.

At WCRW, Beijing holds a direct financial interest in the Washington station’s broadcasts. Corporate records in the United States and China show a Beijing-based subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned radio broadcaster owns 60 percent of an American company that leases almost all of the station’s airtime.

China has a number of state-run media properties, such as the Xinhua news agency, that are well-known around the world. But American officials charged with monitoring foreign media ownership and propaganda said they were unaware of the Chinese-controlled radio operation inside the United States until contacted by Reuters. A half-dozen former senior U.S. officials said federal authorities should investigate whether the arrangement violates laws governing foreign media and agents in the United States.

A U.S. law enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibits foreign governments or their representatives from holding a radio license for a U.S. broadcast station. Under the Communications Act, foreign individuals, governments and corporations are permitted to hold up to 20 percent ownership directly in a station and up to 25 percent in the U.S. parent corporation of a station.

CRI itself doesn’t hold ownership stakes in U.S. stations, but it does have a majority share via a subsidiary in the company that leases WCRW in Washington and a Philadelphia station with a similarly high-powered signal.

Said former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt: “If there were allegations made about de facto Chinese government ownership of radio stations, then I’m sure the FCC would investigate.”

U.S. law also requires anyone inside the United States seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government or group to register with the Department of Justice. Public records show that CRI’s U.S. Chinese-American business partner and his companies haven’t registered as foreign agents under the law, called the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.

I would make a serious inquiry under FARA into a company rebroadcasting Chinese government propaganda inside the United States without revealing that it is acting on behalf of, or it’s owned or controlled by China,” said D.E. “Ed” Wilson Jr., a former senior White House and Treasury Department official.

CRI headquarters in Beijing and the Chinese embassy in Washington declined to make officials available for interviews or to comment on the findings of this article.

Justice Department national security spokesman Marc Raimondi and FCC spokesman Neil Grace declined to comment.

Other officials at the FCC said the agency receives so many license applications that it only launches a probe if it receives a complaint. People familiar with the matter said no such complaint has been lodged with the FCC about the CRI-backed network in the United States.


Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has chafed at a world order he sees as dominated by the United States and its allies, is aware that China struggles to project its views in the international arena.

We should increase China’s soft power, give a good Chinese narrative and better communicate China’s message to the world,” Xi said in a policy address in November last year, according to Xinhua.

CRI head Wang Gengnian has described Beijing’s messaging effort as the “borrowed boat” strategy – using existing media outlets in foreign nations to carry China’s narrative.

The 33 radio stations backed by CRI broadcast in English, Chinese or local languages, offering a mix of news, music and cultural programs. Newscasts are peppered with stories highlighting China’s development, such as its space program, and its contribution to humanitarian causes, including earthquake relief in Nepal.       

We are not the evil empire that some Western media portray us to be,” said a person close to the Communist Party leadership in Beijing who is familiar with the CRI network. “Western media reports about China are too negative. We just want to improve our international image. It’s self-protection.”

In some ways, the CRI-backed radio stations fulfill a similar advocacy role to that of the U.S.-run Voice of America. But there is a fundamental difference: VOA openly publishes the fact that it receives U.S. government funding. CRI is using front companies that cloak its role.

A few of the programs broadcast in the United States cite reports from CRI, but most don’t. One program, The Beijing Hour, says it is “brought to you by China Radio International.”

Some shows are slick, others lack polish. While many segments are indistinguishable from mainstream American radio shows, some include announcers speaking English with noticeable Chinese accents.

The production values vary because the broadcasts are appealing to three distinct audiences: first-generation Chinese immigrants with limited English skills; second-generation Chinese curious about their ancestral homeland; and non-Chinese listeners whom Beijing hopes to influence.

One thing the programs have in common: They generally ignore criticism of China and steer clear of anything that casts Beijing in a negative light.

A top-of-the-hour morning newscast on Oct. 15, broadcast in Washington and other U.S. cities, was identified only as “City News.” It reported that U.S. officials were concerned about cyber attacks, including one in which the personal information of about 20 million American government workers was allegedly stolen. The broadcast left out a key element: It has been widely reported that U.S. officials believe China was behind that hack.

Last year, as thousands of protesters demanding free elections paralyzed Hong Kong for weeks, the news on CRI-backed stations in the United States presented China’s point of view. A report the day after the protests ended did not explain why residents were on the streets and carried no comments from protest leaders. The demonstrations, a report said, had “failed without the support of the people in Hong Kong.”

Many of these stations do not run ads and so do not appear to be commercially motivated.

Around the world, corporate records show, CRI’s surrogates use the same business structure. The three Chinese businessmen in partnership with Beijing have each created a domestic media company that is 60 percent owned by a Beijing-based group called Guoguang Century Media Consultancy. Guoguang, in turn, is wholly owned by a subsidiary of CRI, according to Chinese company filings.

The three companies span the globe:

• In Europe, GBTimes of Tampere, Finland, has an ownership stake in or provides content to at least nine stations, according to interviews and an examination of company filings.

• In Asia-Pacific, Global CAMG Media Group of Melbourne, Australia, has an ownership stake in or supplies programming to at least eight stations, according to corporate records.

• And in North America, G&E Studio Inc, near Los Angeles, California, broadcasts content nearly full time on at least 15 U.S. stations. A station in Vancouver also broadcasts G&E content. In addition to distributing CRI programming, G&E produces and distributes original Beijing-friendly shows from its California studios.

In a Sept. 16 interview at his offices near Los Angeles, G&E president and CEO James Su confirmed that CRI subsidiary Guoguang Century Media holds a majority stake in his company and that he has a contract with the Chinese broadcaster. He said that a non-disclosure agreement bars him from divulging details.

Su said he complies with U.S. laws. G&E doesn’t own stations, but rather leases the airtime on them. “It’s like a management company that manages a condominium,” he said.

Su added that he is a businessman, not an agent for China. “Our U.S. audience and our U.S. public has the choice,” Su said. “They can choose to listen or not listen. I think this is an American value.”

GBTimes CEO Zhao Yinong, who spearheads the European arm of the expatriate radio operation, confirmed that he receives several million euros a year from CRI. In an interview in Beijing, Zhao said he was “not interested in creating a false China” and he had “nothing to hide.”

Tommy Jiang, the head of CAMG, the Australian-based company that owns and operates stations in the Asia-Pacific region, declined to comment.


CRI has grown remarkably since its founding in 1941. According to its English-language website, its first broadcast was aired from a cave, and the news reader had to frighten away wolves with a flashlight. Today, CRI says it broadcasts worldwide in more than 60 languages and Chinese dialects.

CRI content is carefully scripted, with the treatment of sensitive topics such as the banned Falun Gong spiritual group adhering strictly to the government line. Those restrictions might make China’s soft-power push an uphill battle with audiences in places like Houston, Rome or Auckland.

But CRI does have something to offer station owners. Since 2010, CRI’s broadcast partner in the United States has struck deals that bailed out struggling community radio stations, either by purchasing them outright or paying tens of thousands of dollars a month to lease virtually all their airtime. The latter is known as “time-brokering” and is the method G&E used to take to the air in Washington.

The 195-foot towers broadcasting Beijing’s agenda throughout the Washington region are located in suburban Loudoun County, Virginia, near Dulles International Airport. They pump out a 50,000-watt signal, the maximum for an AM station in the United States.

The towers went live in 2011. In the previous five decades, before the Chinese got involved, the station was known as WAGE, and it used smaller equipment and broadcast mostly local news and talk.

At just 5,000 watts, the signal didn’t carry far. This didn’t matter much until the 1990s, when Loudoun County boomed into a bedroom community for Washington. Commuters would lose the signal halfway to the capital.

In 2005, an American company called Potomac Radio LLC purchased the station and added some nationally syndicated programming. Potomac Radio president Alan Pendleton said his company had a history of leasing time to ethnic programmers, including an hour a day to CRI on another station. Revenue at WAGE continued to fall, however, and in 2009, it went off the air.

“It was a painful, painful experience,” said Pendleton. “We were losing millions of dollars a year down the drain.”

Saying they hoped to resurrect the station, other Potomac Radio executives asked Loudoun County in 2009 for permission to erect three broadcast towers on land owned by a county utility, records show. The new towers would boost the station’s signal tenfold to 50,000 watts, reaching into Washington.

In their application, Potomac Radio executives argued that the new towers offered the “last hope to retain Loudoun County’s only” radio station. The paperwork made no mention of plans to lease airtime to Su and CRI.

Potomac Radio also invoked the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a day when the station provided “critical information to county businesses and parents” as mobile phone service became overloaded. The new towers would contribute to public safety, proponents said.

The county Board of Supervisors approved the towers. In the days before the station came back on air in April 2011, Potomac Radio sought FCC permission to change the name to WCRW.

Asked about the initials, Pendleton confirmed that they stand for China Radio Washington. The change was his idea, not CRI’s, he said.

Loudoun County officials were surprised when the amped-up station returned as WCRW and began broadcasting G&E and CRI content about China.

It was all very deceptive,” said Kelly Burk, a county supervisor at the time. “They presented it as all about being about local radio, and never let on what they were really up to.”

Potomac Radio’s Pendleton said there was no deception. His company was approached by CRI several months after the county approved the towers, he said.

Pendleton said he didn’t know that G&E was 60 percent owned by a subsidiary of the Chinese government until Reuters informed him.  But the arrangement complies with FCC law, he said, because G&E leases the airwaves instead of owning the station.

In any event, he said, CRI is open about its goals: to present a window into Chinese culture and offer Chinese points of view on international affairs.

If you listen to other state-sponsored broadcasters,” especially Russia’s, “they’re really insidious,” Pendleton said. “CRI’s not like that at all.”

Pendleton said he has no input in WCRW content: He simply rebroadcasts whatever programs arrive from CRI’s man in America, G&E founder James Su.


James Yantao Su was born in Shanghai in 1970, the year China launched its first satellite. He moved to the United States in 1989, he said, ultimately settling in West Covina, a suburb of Los Angeles, and became a U.S. citizen.

By the early 2000s, Su was a moderately successful media entrepreneur. But after his 2009 deal to create G&E, in which the Chinese state-owned subsidiary has a majority stake, his fortunes rose,

Today, the 44-year-old owns or co-owns real estate and radio stations worth more than $15 million, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. corporate, property, tax and FCC records. His projects include English and Chinese-language stations, a magazine, a newspaper, four apartment buildings, condos at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, a film festival and a charity that last year donated $230,000 to an orphanage in China.

Two of his primary companies are G&E Studio and EDI Media Inc. G&E dedicated a  page on its website to showcase CRI as a “close” partner, but it recently deleted the page after Reuters made inquiries. EDI’s site says it has become “China’s outward media and advertising proxy” in the United States.

In 2013, the Chinese government presented Su with a special contribution award at a media event for Chinese broadcasters.

Other ties are not as visible: The key disclosure that G&E is 60 percent owned by Guoguang Century – the Beijing firm that’s 100 percent owned by CRI – is contained in a footnote in a lengthy FCC filing made on behalf of another Su company, Golden City Broadcast, LLC.

Su declined to discuss his business career in detail. An early highlight, though, was a speech he gave in 2003, when he was in his early thirties.

Covered by China’s state-run media, the speech laid out Su’s vision for a business that could be profitable and also help China project its message in the United States. The business would need to be structured to comply with U.S. ownership laws and would “endorse China’s ideology,” Su was quoted as saying.

In the same speech, he spoke of his fellow expats’ affinity for China. “The sense of belonging to China among countrymen residing abroad and their endorsement of China’s current policies grow with each day,” Su said, according to Xinhua.

In 2008, Su gave an address in which he criticized U.S. media for focusing their China coverage on issues such as human rights.

The media were misleading “the American masses’ objective understanding of China, even engendering hostile emotions,” Su said, according to a China National Radio report.

It was in 2009 that Su’s vision really began to take shape. That year, records show, Su created G&E Studio.

G&E now broadcasts in English and Chinese on at least 15 U.S. stations, including Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Houston, Honolulu and Portland, Oregon.

The content is largely the same on each station, produced either by CRI from Beijing or by G&E from California.

A typical hour on most stations begins with a short newscast that can toggle between China news and stories about violent crimes in the United States. Besides the overtly political coverage, topics range from global currency fluctuations and Chinese trade missions to celebrity wardrobe analysis and modern parenting challenges.

While Su owns a minority share of G&E, he has structured his radio station holdings in various ways. According to the most recent FCC records, he is the majority owner of at least six stations, such as the one in Atlanta, which he purchased for $2.1 million in 2013.

In other cases he leases airtime. In Washington, for instance, he leases virtually all the time on WCRW for more than $720,000 a year through G&E. A Philadelphia station is leased under a similar arrangement for at least $600,000 a year.

A spokeswoman for Su said Reuters’ description of the extent of his network is “generally correct.”

Su declined to describe how he makes money when most of the U.S. stations air virtually no commercials. He also declined to say how he got the money to finance his radio leases and acquisitions.

His stations, Su said, offer the American public an alternative viewpoint on Chinese culture and politics. He has “no way to control” what CRI broadcasts on the stations, he said, nor is he part of any plan to spread Chinese propaganda.

We are only telling the unfiltered real news to our audience,” he said.

On Oct. 29, WCRW carried a program called “The Hourly News.” Among the top stories: Senior Chinese and U.S. naval commanders planned to speak by video after a U.S. Navy ship passed close by China’s new artificial islands in the South China Sea. Washington and its allies see the island-building program as a ploy to grab control of strategic sea lanes, and the Navy sail-by was meant to counter China’s territorial claims.

WCRW omitted that side of the story.

The admirals are holding the talks, the announcer said, “amid the tension the U.S. created this week.”

Additional reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim and Joseph Campbell in Beijing, Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo, Gopal Sharma and Ross Adkin in Kathmandu, Mirwais Harooni in Kabul, Joyce Lee in Seoul, Eveline Danubrata and Arzia Tivany Wargadiredja in Jakarta, Khettiya Jittapong and Pairat Temphairojana in Bangkok, Theodora D’cruz in Singapore, Mohammed Shihar in Colombo, Terrence Edwards in Ulan Bator, Diane Chan in Hong Kong, Jane Wardell and Ian Chua in Sydney, Balazs Koranyi and Harro Ten Wolde in Frankfurt, Jussi Rosendahl in Helsinki, Sara Ledwith in London, Julia Fioretti in Brussels, Can Sezer in Istanbul, Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Kole Casule in Skopje, Renee Maltezou in Athens, Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Radu-Sorin Marinas in Bucharest, Geert De Clercq in Paris, Marton Dunai in Budapest, Ed Cropley in Johannesburg, Selam Gebrekidan in New York, Anna Driver in Houston, Renee Dudley in Boston, Brian Grow in Atlanta, David Storey in Washington and Euan Rocha in Toronto

Melting ice in west Antarctica could raise seas by 3m, warns study

Nasa research finds ice in the region has gone into ‘irreversible retreat’ and claims effect is ‘unstoppable’

November 2, 2015  

Agence France-Presse in Miami

A key area of ice in west Antarctica may already be unstable enough to cause global sea levels to rise by 3m, scientists said on Monday.

The study follows research published last year, led by Nasa glaciologist Eric Rignot, warning that ice in the Antarctic had gone into a state of irreversible retreat, that the melting was considered “unstoppable” and could raise sea level by 1.2m.

This time, researchers at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research pointed to the long-term impacts of the crucial Amundsen Sea sector of west Antarctica, which they said “has most likely been destabilised.”

While previous studies “examined the short-term future evolution of this region, here we take the next step and simulate the long-term evolution of the whole west Antarctic ice sheet,” the authors said in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They used computer models to project the effects of 60 more years of melting at the current rate.

This “would drive the west Antarctic ice sheet past a critical threshold beyond which a complete, long-term disintegration would occur.”

In other words, “the entire marine ice sheet will discharge into the ocean, causing a global sea level rise of about 3m,” the authors wrote.

“If the destabilisation has begun, a 3m increase in sea level over the next several centuries to millennia may be unavoidable.”

Even just a few decades of ocean warming can unleash a melting spree that lasts for hundreds to thousands of years.

Once the ice masses get perturbed, which is what is happening today, they respond in a non-linear way: there is a relatively sudden breakdown of stability after a long period during which little change can be found,” said lead author Johannes Feldmann.

The authors noted that Antarctica’s situation presents the largest uncertainty in sea level projections for the coming centuries, and that studying the vast region poses many challenges.

And indeed, just days before the PNAS study was released, another scientific paper used Nasa satellite data form 2003 to 2008 to show that Antarctic ice had gained mass, and had packed on enough to exceed the amount lost in other areas.

We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of west Antarctica,” said a statement by Jay Zwally, a glaciologist with Nasa Goddard Space Flight centre whose study was published on 30 October in the Journal of Glaciology.

Our main disagreement is for east Antarctica and the interior of west Antarctica – there, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas.”

According to climatologist Michael Mann, who was not involved in either study, the use of older satellite data could be the cause for the disconnect.

“It sounds to me as if the key issue here is that the claims are based on seven-year-old data, and so cannot address the finding that Antarctic ice loss has accelerated in more recent years,” he told AFP.

New U.S.-Backed Alliance in Syria Exists in Name Only

November 2, 2015

by Ben Hubbard

New York Times

EIN EISSA, Syria — After abandoning its last effort to train and arm Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State, the Obama administration has turned to a newly announced alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces, to beat the jihadists in northern Syria.

But 10 days of interviews and front-line visits across northern Syria with many of the forces in the alliance made clear that so far it exists in name only, and that the political and logistical challenges it faces are daunting.

One Arab commander, sitting near the earthen wall that separates this deserted town in Syria from the Islamic State’s front line, bitterly recalled being chased from his Syrian hometown by the jihadists and said he would do anything to reclaim that territory. But then he detailed a list of things his forces needed: ammunition, radios, heavy weapons and more American airstrikes.

This is the state of our fighters: trying to fight ISIS with simple means,” he said, pointing to a fighter in broken boots, tattered fatigues and a dirty sweatshirt that read “Skateboarding ruined by life.”

Beyond the early logistical factors, the new alliance faces what is perhaps a more serious challenge in the long term: Though it is intended to begin clawing back territory from the Islamic State in mostly Arab areas, nearly all of the group’s fighting power comes from ethnic Kurdish militias.

That demographic reality is likely to further alarm Turkey, a vital American ally that considers Kurdish autonomy near its southern border a security threat. It also limits the forces’ ability to strike the jihadists in predominately Arab communities — Kurdish fighters have less motivation to fight for those areas, and could deeply anger residents by doing so.

The backbone of these forces are the Kurdish groups because of their experience fighting ISIS and their numbers,” said Redur Xelil, a spokesman for Syria’s dominant Kurdish force, the Y.P.G. But he talked about how that could be a limiting factor in fighting for cities like Raqqa, the Islamic State’s headquarters in Syria: “We have to be realistic that the Y.P.G. can’t go by itself into Raqqa, or people will say, ‘What are you doing there?’”

A newly appointed spokesman for the alliance briefed reporters in Syria beneath a yellow banner bearing its name in Kurdish, Arabic and Assyrian. But the meeting took place inside a Kurdish militia facility because the alliance does not have its own bases yet, nor flags to put on its cars or a defined command structure, said the spokesman, Talal Sillu.

The combined force is to be commanded by a six-person military council, Mr. Sillu said. But he acknowledged that only one member had been named so far — Mr. Sillu himself.

Last week, President Obama announced plans to deploy dozens of Special Operations troops to support the new alliance. And before that, American officials said 50 tons of ammunition had been airdropped for Arab fighters with the new group.

But already, things have not always gone as planned. Since the ammunition airdrop, American officials have privately acknowledged that the Arab units it was intended for did not have the logistical capability to move it. So, again, the Kurds were called to help.

An array of smaller groups have allied with the Kurds, including Arab and Turkmen rebels, Christian militias and Bedouin fighters loyal to a sheikh who considered the Libyan leader Col. Moammar Qaddafi a friend.

While these groups hate the Islamic State, most are small, and some have been repeatedly routed by the very jihadists the United States now hopes they will defeat.

While the Kurds have become used to securing territory, with uniformed forces and a clear chain of command, their Arab allies often leave teenagers with Kalashnikovs at checkpoints who stop and release cars at random, scaring drivers.

A commander of one Arab group lamented that while Kurdish commanders could simply order their fighters to move, he could only make suggestions and hope his men complied.

Some of the alliance’s forces have cooperated before, but relations are not always smooth. The Kurdish military strength in the area means that Kurds set the agenda, and many clearly look down on their Arab partners.

For their part, Arab rebel fighters say they worry about their partners’ close ties to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or P.K.K., which the United States, Turkey and others list as a terrorist organization. They also distrust the motives of the thousands of Kurdish fighters who have come to Syria from Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

ISIS brings foreign fighters for an Islamic State, while they bring foreign fighters for a Kurdish project,” said one Arab commander with the Raqqa Revolutionaries Brigade who goes by the name Abu Hamza. “But if that is how they think, they’ll fail.”

At another position near Ein Eissa, a swaggering Kurdish commander listed his militia’s victories against the Islamic State before acknowledging that he — like many of his fighters — was not Syrian. He was from Iran, and unabashed about being another foreign fighter in Syria’s civil war.

I came to bring democracy, while ISIS came to kill,” said the commander, Gali Cilo. “That is the difference.”

The roots of the Syrian Democratic Forces lie in Syria’s northeast corner, a long-neglected region where most of Syria’s Kurdish minority lives alongside other ethnic groups in impoverished towns scattered among wheat fields dotted with aging oil wells.

While world attention since the Syria conflict began has focused on fighting between the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, Sunni rebels and the Islamic State, the Kurds have taken advantage of the chaos to carve out an autonomous zone.

Much of that has been done over the last year, as the Y.P.G. — the Kurdish abbreviation for the People’s Protection Units, the dominant Kurdish force in Syria — has closely coordinated with the United States and its allies to seize land from the Islamic State in a long strip along the Turkish border.

Evidence of the Kurdish group’s dominance is obvious. The militia runs ubiquitous checkpoints; photos of its “martyrs” adorn billboards; and its fighters hold most of the more than 280-mile-long front line with the Islamic State. Parts of it have come to resemble an international border, with deep trenches and high berms running for miles, lined with bright lights to prevent jihadist infiltrators. The whole line is dotted with heavily sandbagged positions to protect against machine gun and mortar attacks by the jihadists.

A senior United States military official said the United States had encouraged the Kurdish militia to create an umbrella group that would make more sense to an international audience, and Kurdish leaders decided to call it the Syrian Democratic Forces.

But a subgroup of Arab brigades called the Syrian Arab Coalition was “an American invention,” the senior official acknowledged. It had about 5,000 fighters, and 20 percent of them said they would defend their land but would not go on the offensive against the Islamic State.

The dominant Kurdish force, the Y.P.G., meanwhile, is believed to have about 40,000 fighters — including thousands from neighboring countries and many linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party.

The Y.P.G. is a very effective fighting force, and it can do a lot,” said Barak Barfi, a research fellow at the New American Foundation, a nonprofit policy group in Washington, who recently spent time with Kurdish units in Syria. “But these Arab groups are weak and just a fig leaf for the Y.P.G.”

The alliance sought to help the Kurds by dampening fear among Arabs of Kurdish domination, and the United States hoped it would play down its close relationship with the Kurds so as not to alarm Turkey, Mr. Barfi said.

But the alliance itself has internal tensions.

There is no deep-rooted alliance between these groups; this is a shifting, tactical alliance,” Mr. Barfi said.

The motivations of the Kurds’ allies varied. Some lived in Kurdish majority areas, so attached themselves to the dominant power. Others had lost their communities to the Islamic State and hoped that Kurdish military might could help them go home.

What is important for us is to protect our area, and the security of our children, our homes and our women,” said Sheikh Hmeidi Daham al-Jarba, whose Arab tribal militia, the Sanadeed Forces, has joined the alliance. “We have the Kurds on one side and ISIS on the other, so who should we choose?”

Seated in the vast reception hall of his five-story palace, Sheikh Hmeidi said his tribesmen, living in a collection of poor farming and herding villages, formed an armed group in 2011 when rebels attacked their area.

The sheikh’s son, Bandar, the force’s military commander, said they would consider fighting the Islamic State elsewhere but needed support. Many of his fighters had sold land to buy ammunition, he said.

At a front-line position on the road to Raqqa, Abu Hamza of the Raqqa Revolutionaries Brigade explained his group’s long path to its alliance with the Kurds.

It had formed in Raqqa Province in 2011 to fight Mr. Assad’s forces, sometimes alongside Islamist rebels including the Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda. For awhile, they even fought against the Kurds.

But early last year, Islamic State militants kicked his men out of the city of Raqqa, and then out of a nearby village. So they sought refuge with the Kurds.

Four years of fighting had worn them down. Scores of their colleagues had been killed, and the group had to blow up two valuable tanks it had captured from the Syrian government so that Islamic State militants would not take them.

Now , Abu Hamza said, they hoped their alliance with the Kurdish forces would let them get back at the jihadists, and perhaps open a new line of support.

We need uniforms, we need ammunition, we need everything,” he said.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.

Facing Growing Encryption, Law Enforcement Recommends More Informants

November 3 2015

by Jana Winter, Sharon Weinberger

The Intercept

As the widespread use of encryption starts to make surveillance more challenging, one of the nation’s fusion centers has a proposed solution: More informants.

That’s the message behind a new document created by the Wisconsin Statewide Information Center, a designated intelligence fusion center, with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. The document, which was obtained by The Intercept, is marked For Official Use Only and titled “Going Dark – Covert Messaging Applications and Law Enforcement Implications.”

The document, dated Sept. 29, 2015, appears to serve as a primer for law enforcement on encryption, examining various encrypted messaging services, such as Silent Circle, Telegram and Wickr. It notes that increasing “public awareness of government surveillance has contributed to the rising consumer demand for covert messaging apps.”

FBI Director James Comey has blasted the growing use of encryption in recent months, claiming simultaneously that it presented an opportunity for terrorists, while also suggesting the FBI could thwart efforts by those people were “going dark.”

This new document outlines the different encryption apps, giving information on what sort of data is retained, and the type of user registration required. The authors acknowledge, however, that in many cases, the apps will frustrate law enforcement attempts to obtain data, and may require other methods. “Knowledge that the subject of a law enforcement investigation is using covert messaging may also enable decisions about alternative investigative techniques such as confidential informants or undercover operations,” it says.

The use of confidential informants has exploded in recent years; exact numbers are hard to come by, but the New York Times reported in 2008 that the FBI maintains more than 15,000 covert informants, and the Drug Enforcement Agency about another 4,000.

In addition to paid informants, law enforcement should turn to people who may know the target of the investigation, including family. “Due to the security restrictions of such apps, it is increasingly imperative that bystanders—to include parents, teachers, and community members—remain aware of possible signs of radicalization and mobilization to violence and report concerns to the appropriate authorities,” the document says.

As to the future, the fusion center has a commercial prediction: “The increasing market demand for secure services will continue to spark the startup of anonymization companies and the development of new techniques to counter law enforcement efforts.”

The DHS declined to comment on the report.

Americans becoming less religious, especially young adults: poll

November 3, 2015

by Mary Wisniewski


Americans are becoming less religious, judging by such markers as church attendance, prayer and belief in God, and the trend is more pronounced among young adults, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

The share of U.S. adults who say they believe in God, while still high compared with other advanced industrial countries, slipped to 89 percent in 2014 from 92 percent in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study.

The proportion of Americans who say they are “absolutely certain” God exists fell even more, to 63 percent in 2014 from 71 percent in 2007.

The percentage of Americans who pray every day, attend religious services regularly and consider religion important in their lives are down by small, but statistically significant measures, the survey found.

The trend is most pronounced among young adults, with only half of those born from 1990 to 1996 absolutely certain of their belief in God, compared to 71 percent of the “silent generation,” or those born from 1928 to 1945.

Younger people also are less likely to pray daily, at 39 percent, compared to “silent generation” adults at 67 percent. Young adults are also much less likely to attend religious services, the survey found.

On the other hand, 77 percent of Americans continue to identify with some religious faith, and those who do are just as committed now as they were in 2007, according to the survey. Two-thirds of religiously affiliated adults say they pray every day and that religion is very important to them, the survey found.

The survey also found religious divides among the political parties, with those who are not religiously affiliated more likely to be Democrats, at 28 percent, compared to 14 percent of Republicans.

About 38 percent of Republicans identify as evangelical Protestants – the largest religious group in the party, the survey found. Catholics make up 21 percent of each major political party.

Orianna O’Neill, 21, a student at Beloit College in Wisconsin who comes from a non-religious household but sometimes prays, said she thinks the anti-science, anti-gay rhetoric of some politicians may be turning some young people away from religion.

“The idea of Republicans not believing in global warming is contributing to the notion that religious people are not intelligent,” O’Neill said.

Both the 2007 and 2014 studies surveyed more than 35,000 adults and had margins of error of less than 1 percentage point.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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